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Extra pound;10million for communication aids

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has extended a project designed to help children with communications difficulties. The Communication Aids Project (CAP) targets children with speaking or writing difficulties and provides a cross-section of equipment, ranging from communication aids to laptops.

CAP, managed by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), was originally set to run from April 2002 to March 2004 and received pound;10 million of funding from The Treasury. Now, it's been extended until March 2006 and will receive an additional pound;10 million, although this time, directly from the DfES (p28).

CAP aims to help school-age children across England. Last year it provided 1,500 children with pound;3 million worth of equipment, which is supplied on a long-term loan basis. The funding also provides training and support for pupils, parents andor school staff. The project uses six centres across England to assess any pupil referrals. "The aim is to help children develop their communication skills, interact with their peers and improve social skills," says Chris Stevens, head of SEN and Inclusion at Becta.

This year, CAP aims to increase the number of referrals from last year's 1,800 to 2,500. Stevens says the extra funding from the DfES means CAP can be more flexible in how it uses the cash.

Some of the new funding will be used to offer additional training to school staff explains Stevens. "We'd like to see schools making more assessments of the pupils' needs as well as the referral. We want to set up a network of contacts who are known to the centres and who can produce the assessment at the same time as they make the referral. This will mean we can make decisions even faster, so children reap the benefits of the project that much quicker."

George Cole

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